Ministers and union bosses say “lessons must be learned” after a man was hit by a train and died while working on a railway track in south-west London.
Emergency services were called to Surbiton railway station at about midday on Tuesday following reports of a casualty on the tracks.
A 30-year-old man from Hampshire was pronounced dead at the scene.
The incident happened between Surbiton and Weybridge and it is understood that the man was working on the tracks at the time.
Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association union, said a “full and thorough” investigation must take place to establish the circumstances and what had “gone wrong”.
TSSA General Secretary, Manuel Cortes, has issued a safety warning after a railway track worker was struck and killed by a train today close to #Surbiton Station.https://t.co/kDwDFHFcXK pic.twitter.com/prdDhxveAq— TSSA (@TSSAunion) February 9, 2021
British Transport Police (BTP) said the man’s family had been informed and that officers were working with the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) and the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) to establish the full circumstances behind his death.
Andrew Haines, Network Rail chief executive, confirmed the man was a employee and said it was “an incredibly sad time for the railway family”.
Transport minister Chris Heaton-Harris tweeted: “My sincerest condolences to the friends, family and colleagues affected by the tragic incident near Surbiton station.
“While investigations continue, we will ensure lessons are learned.”
Mr Cortes added: “Any loss of life on our railways is a tragedy.
Surbiton: A statement from Andrew Haines, chief executive, Network Rail. pic.twitter.com/7hda8fbQd8— Network Rail (@networkrail) February 9, 2021
“It would be wrong to speculate at this time about what has gone wrong, but a full and thorough investigation must take place, so lessons can be learned.
“Our union has been warning Network Rail about the alarming number of near misses and fatalities we have seen over the past year.
“Our Network Rail members do so much to keep our railways running smoothly day in, day out, and must be able to do this in a safe environment.
“Our union will never compromise on safety, and safety can never be taken for granted.
“It is simply not acceptable in this day and age that people go out to work and end up losing their lives.”
My sincerest condolences to the friends, family and colleagues affected by the tragic incident near Surbiton station. While investigations continue, we will ensure lessons are learned.— Chris Heaton-Harris MP (@chhcalling) February 9, 2021
A report from the ORR last year found that Network Rail was not doing enough to control risks to track workers.
The report, published in July 2020, found that “too much emphasis was placed on track workers implementing and following complicated safe systems of work”.
The report highlighted the death of two workers at Margam in July 2019, and said the systems “depended on everyone doing the right things in the right way at the right time”.
“We found that much worker protection also depends on the vigilance of lookouts armed with flags and whistles,” it said.
“As train frequencies and speeds increase, and the maintenance needs of the railway rise accordingly, these forms of protection are no longer safe enough.”
The report added that technological solutions were available to “remove track workers from proximity to trains”.
The ORR said it could not comment further on the ongoing investigation in Surbiton.
South Western Railway (SWR) said it had switched off the power in the affected area to allow emergency services access and that it expected delays and cancellations until 7pm on Tuesday.
A number of replacement bus services have been put on to minimise disruption.